Monday, July 16, 2012
I'm one of those people who will generally walk right past labels that proudly proclaim a food "low fat" or "low sodium" or "organic" or "all natural" - or at least look at the nutrition label and ingredients. In point of fact, I despise marketing for all the deceptiveness that is involved.
Every one of those words affixed to a food is supposed to make the person eating it feel they've picked something healthy.
Well Sunday at the grocery store I sort of fell for one without realizing it.
Peanut butter. Growing up I remember us taking plastic tubs to the health food store and having a machine that ground the peanuts to fill it. There were settings to have it crunchier or creamier, but ALL it contained was 100% peanuts. No added salt, no added oil, no added sugar. "All natural" peanut butter.
So I saw a jar of "Natural" peanut butter, saw the warning about oil separation (very familiar with pure peanut butter), vaguely noticed the low sodium claim (nearly half the sodium of the normal), and bought it.
Today, as I spread it on my celery, I actually looked more closely at the jar and label and ingredients.
I feel dumb for not "reading the label" first. (But, to be honest, it is better than what I've usually picked up. It was just the thinking that I should switch back to a more natural peanut butter that pulled me in - and next time I'll actually get one that is 100% peanuts.)
1) It's a peanut butter spread.
The moment they affix the word spread, that means it is less than some legally required percentage to count as simple peanut butter. In this case, 90% peanuts. Which sounds good until you realized ... 10% what else?
2) It's one of the two big brands.
All that means is EXPECT sugar. Sugar and molasses are natural. So is salt. So is palm oil. Yep, that's the ingredient list. In fact, that made me go look at the regular version. What's the difference here? Peanuts and sugar. No change there. Oh, they used palm oil instead of "hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean)" but added more oil because it couldn't be labeled "contains 2% or less". Oh, and they left out the mono and diglycerides.
Sooooo ... all they left out were the "unnatural" fatty acids that are used to prevent the oil separation, giving it a false apparency of being the pure peanut butter while being nothing of the kind and giving them the legal ability to call it "natural".
3) Gotta love "low sodium".
2% or less of the following ingredients: Salt. But it's really only a difference of about 80mg of sodium. BOTH versions, the natural low-sodium and the regular, contain less than 2% of salt. That doesn't really say much more than a marketing lure.
Another lesson learned.